The older I get, the more time I want to spend with family and friends in the company of my own home. After spending so much time on décor and design, why wouldn't I? It turns out that I'm not alone. My good friend and entertaining expert Camille Styles agrees, and if there's anyone who knows how to throw an unforgettable party, it's her. One thing I've never been able to nail, however, is that effortless host appeal. How do you prepare, cook, decorate, and mingle with all the guests while ensuring they (and you!) have a good time? It sounds impossible, but when you see Styles in her element like we did at the Who What Wear x House in the Hills party held at her own gorgeous home in Austin, Texas, we saw that it is.
According to Styles, there's one thing you need to tackle first. "I always start by deciding on a couple of elements that I want to focus on for that particular party," she tells us. "I never try to tackle it all." The secret sauce to an unforgettable party is in beautiful seasonal food, a fun cocktail, or one or two "wow" décor elements like lush flowers or loads of flickering candles. "By keeping things simple and focusing on just a few things, I'm able to enjoy the evening and let it be about creating great memories with friends. Because that's what parties are all about."
But surely there's more to it than that, right? To learn more, we asked Styles to share her top five tips for throwing a party that guests will remember.
Make a Party To-Do List
"At the very beginning of the planning process, I create a master list with every task that has to be accomplished leading up to the party up to the hour before guests arrive. I keep my list somewhere readily accessible and then follow the schedule to the letter, which allows me to get everything accomplished without the stress of worrying that I'm forgetting something important."
Batch Your Cocktails
"A big batch cocktail, like a pitcher of margaritas or bowl filled with champagne punch, keeps things super easy and lets guests be their own mixologists. Set out fun seasonal garnishes and let guests have fun getting creative with their cocktails."
Pick Your Palette
"The most Insta-worthy parties have a simple and strong aesthetic point of view. One easy way to accomplish this is by choosing a very limited color palette (one or two shades) and sticking to it throughout every element of the décor from the entrance to the cocktail garnish to the table centerpiece. Determine your color palette before you begin to shop for decorations, which will help you achieve a well-edited selection of pieces that you'll look forward to unpacking again year after year."
Serve Food Family Style
"Set out platters of food on the table, then let everyone pass them around and share in the experience. Serving this way makes things easier on the host and the food takes center stage as a décor element, plus it gets everyone interacting and conversing around the table. For a cocktail party like this one, big platters full of cheese and charcuterie get people mingling and do double duty as a statement-making centerpiece."
Theme Out Your Beats
"I truly believe that nothing influences a party more than the right music to set the tone. For this one, we turned up the French vibes with a mix of French lounge music and synthesized electronic pop—and I'm always a proponent of turning it up just a little louder than you first think—don't be afraid to make it feel like a party."
Keep It Simple
"Many hosts pressure themselves to focus on too many details that can easily get lost in the mix. Keep it streamlined and remember that as long as there's delicious food, killer cocktails, and great music, it's going to be a good party."
Invite an Interesting Mix of People
"I've learned that it's important to consider the chemistry of guests at the party. I love bringing friends together from different groups; that said, there is an art to making sure that people will mix well and engage in good conversations with each other. Inviting at least one or two guests who will ask engaging questions and inspire a good conversational flow is key to making it a meaningful evening—you've got to go past the small talk."
Don't Do It Alone
"Don't try to do it all yourself. Enlist the help of friends: Chances are that one of your guests loves to get behind the bar and pour drinks, and people love to pitch in and help out with prepping the meal. And don't be afraid to supplement your menu with high-quality store-bought ingredients. The perfect appetizer is a big board filled with olives, cheeses, baguette slices, figs or pears, Marcona almonds, and some charcuterie. It's delicious and easy and lets me focus on the main course."
So there you have it. The secret to throwing an unforgettable party is actually a lot easier than we first thought. And Styles says you know you've thrown a good one when "everyone thinks back on the evening and immediately gets a big smile on their face." Are you ready to give it a try?